The Untold Truth Of Jamila Norman

While the phrase, "you are what you eat" might sound a bit contrite, Jamila Norman is a powerful voice advocating for consuming the best quality food by growing your own and transforming an outdoor space into a bounty of deliciousness. Sometimes referred to as Farmer J, she's the co-founder of the movement Eat Where You Are and is set to be featured on Chip and Joanna Gaines' Magnolia Network in the upcoming show, "Homegrown," all about the ins and outs of urban farming. While home cooks have become more conscious of the food on their plate, growing your own food is another seed that still has to be sown and Norman is sure to get people inspired to do so.

Farmer J received an Environmental Engineering degree from the University of Georgia and, today, is a leading urban farmer and food activist. In 2010, she founded Patchwork City Farms, an independently-owned 1.2-acre urban farm in Atlanta that has become a blueprint for other communities. Although Norman is internationally recognized for her work and has received many accolades over the years, her passion is still " to inspire people to incorporate the abundant harvest of amazing and beautiful produce" into their daily lives (per Eat Where You Are). From a small space to an abundant field, Norman is proof positive that nurturing a green thumb can grow into a lifelong passion.

Jamila Norman's own path to farming was homegrown

Jamila Norman "is a first generation daughter to Caribbean parents, whose history is rooted in agriculture," according to Patchwork City Farms. In fact, it's her mother — who grew up on a family farm in Jamaica — that initially inspired Norman to want to sow the land too, says Distractify.

Although Norman has a degree in Environmental Engineering, that educational background didn't necessarily ensure she'd have a successful endeavor as a modern urban farmer. As she told Farm Star Living, it was on a whim she decided to start a plot with a friend and now business partner. Although there was no planning or interning, Norman researched and "educated herself" to know how to move forward. And while she knew how to successfully grow food for her own family, she sought to fill the void within the community. Soon enough, Patchwork City Farms became an independent, organic urban farm that is now more than just a growing space — but has become a community space as well.

While Norman has long subscribed to the idea "If you want something done, you just gotta do it yourself," she is also foraging an incredible path as a Black, female farmer, which is not necessarily the typical picture we always get. Even though there might be misconceptions about the craft, Norman looks to alter those concepts with her work and on her upcoming show "Homegrown." As farming brings people together and starts to break down barriers, the reality is that the seeds are stronger than the weeds — and sometimes people and farms just need a little nurturing to set them on the right path.

Sowing the seeds of change

When Jamila Norman founded Patchwork City Farms in 2010, it might have been on a whim, but the need for locally-grown food was great in the Atlanta area. Then and now, the farm is committed to producing sustainable agriculture for the local community. But in addition to being a reliable food source, the space looks to teach others not only how to grow their own food but also to embrace and follow a healthy lifestyle.

Although the food produced on PCF is paramount, Norman looks to the physical space as a teaching tool as a whole with various events and gatherings that draw people in — no to mention a weekly farm shop and subscription series that keeps them fed. In an interview with Modern Farmer, Norman said, "This is a business. It's important for people to see that farming is a viable career. Women can start farms. Black people can do it, too." As more and more people yearn for the story behind the food on their plate, Farmer J is willing to open that book and read a chapter for them.

Trying to inspire a food revolution

While Jamila Norman might be the face of Patchwork City Farms and the new show "Homegrown" on the Magnolia Network, her movement Eat Where You Are is another place she really shines — along with her partner, Chef Beee, they're focused on the idea of Eat. Move. Be Well. Or, "incorporating more fresh and living foods into diets, incorporation [of] movement for health and wellness initiatives, and advocacy focused on communities of color," says the website.

Here, the duo also introduces the concept of Raw HERstory. Although Norman is vegetarian, this program is all about going raw. The site encourages people to join "Spring Into the Raw," an online, 15-day raw food eating program meant to cleanse the body and give it a fresh start. In addition to being recognized by organizations like the Healthy Heart Coalition that endowed the Commitment to Communities Excellence Award to the pair, the annual happening has also created a supportive if not also revolutionized community. 

As seen in many of the testimonials, people have noted how following the two-week plan changed them — as one person said, it altered "my approach to food and the importance of being conscious of raw foods." Whether this way of eating is a food revolution, a small slice of the healthy eating lifestyle, or something in between, the concept has raised awareness not just for eating raw, but for having a better appreciation for food itself and what it does for the body.

What viewers can expect from "Homegrown"

Debuting on the Magnolia Network on July 15 (per UPI), "Homegrown" takes a different transformation approach than the traditional home renovation series many are looking forward to on the channel. According to the network, Jamila Norman and her show are part of a "storyteller spotlight" that looks to highlight the concept of gardening for greater impact. As they say, it's "the idea that one simple garden can cause a ripple effect that impacts family, community, and environment far beyond expectations." While that concept might seem like a lofty goal, the reality is that a garden can be that unifying factor. Just like how food can be a universal language, the garden offers a bounty that is always overflowing.

While the show looks to transform regular backyard gardens into urban farms, each story is more than just the people on the screen. Like many DIY shows, these episodes look to offer ideas and inspiration that can be transferred to viewers' own environments. Even if a chicken coup is not feasible in one person's world, a windowsill herb garden might lead someone to joining a garden co-op and so on. Just like the show's ripple goal, one little moment or idea can lead to significant change.

Jamila Norman's tips for starting a home garden

In a recent conversation with People, Jamila Norman discussed the rise in popularity of the edible garden. As she said, "The local food movement and growing your own food, it's been building, but the pandemic really put a big spotlight on it." Even if you're starting out with a small garden, she says a few tips can make your plants thrive. 

Many of Norman's suggestions are straightforward. From having good soil to ensuring proper sunlight, the basics need to be covered before digging too deep — though they may seem simple, the reality is that starting with knowing these guidelines is essential. 

From there, Norman suggests beginning with easy-to-grow greens, like kale. She also advises to use companion plants, which have can have benefits from growing near one another. The timeless phrase, "what grows together goes together is more than a chef's mantra," she says. Although these tips do not guarantee that the garden will be the most robust bounty ever, it should start to sow the seeds of success and lead you on the right path.